When I was in seminary, I was surrounded by guys who thought that they were embarking on the “hightest calling.”

That is, they were training to be pastors. And all of the seminary culture reinforced this belief – that being a pastor, i.e. leading a church was the absolute most important thing we could do. Of all the “good” choices of occupation, this was the best.

Now that I’m a teacher, I find myself commonly among people who consider their profession the “highest calling.”

“Strange,” I thought. Didn’t these people get the memo that pastors had the highest calling? But there they are, in all of their audacity, believing that educating the next generation is the most important thing.

And then there are some parents, perhaps who I find myself in the company of, or whose blogs and Facebook posts I read. And wouldn’t you know it, a good deal of parents think that parenting is the highest calling. How could there be anything more important than raising the next generation? And like teachers and pastors, there are plenty of other parents who reinforce that belief.

The thing that I’ve learned is that the language of “highest calling,” contrary to building everyone up, is actually, positively poisonous to everyone, no matter what vocation or life stage we find ourselves in.

This is why.

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Three little words.

Three little words, spoken by Jesus at the very end of his life. I’ve been thinking about them all Easter weekend.

I imagine hardly anyone who was there that day even heard Jesus even speak these three little words. They may have been spoken just above a whisper. And only John records these words.

And even those people who did hear Jesus say it did not understand what he meant.

And ever since then, we have heard these three little words, but I’m not sure we have really believed them.

Because we know ourselves. How could those three little words be true…for us? 

So we keep working at it, trying to do things that humans have never been able to do. We try to make our redemption out of “the cross…and.” 

The cross…and baptism.

The cross…and Calvinism.

The cross…and church.

The cross…and me.

Yes, we make idols out of everything that is really good. We make idols out of everything when we place it next to the cross and say “This is why I’m saved,” or “This is what makes me a Christian.”

What if we really, really believed those three little words that Jesus spoke, three of his last words on the cross? We’d stop trying to do “the cross…and.” And we would start doing the things we were meant to do.

finished

By the way, this isn’t just a stock photo of a cross. My wife’s relative’s built it, overlooking a tiny town in Kansas and it’s pretty sweet. When it glows at night, it looks like a cross-shaped star in the sky.

Of course, today is Good Friday.good-friday-india

Of course, the day we commemorate was not originally called good. There was very little good which anyone could fathom coming out of such a day.

Good Friday was a day on which not only a man died, but dreams died with him. Jesus’ disciples had “hoped that he would be the messiah who would redeem Israel.”

Good Friday was full of anguish, pain, tears and disappointment. And it took several days for people to understand the good which God was working that day. All they knew on Friday was what they could see and hear and feel.

I am afraid that we humans have not changed much. Not that anyone was supposed to get what Jesus’ crucifixion was about that day. But we humans often let the good slide right under our noses, unnoticed. We do not see how things worked in our favor until after the fact. We do not feel the joy or love that we often feel we we look nostalgically at a time. Instead, we just grind through a stage of our lives, groaning about our lot in life. And it isn’t until years later that we look back and say that those times were the best, or the most fruitful, or the most fun.

There are people who have terrible things happen to them – they get cancer or a tragedy strikes them, or they lose their loved ones. And those of us on the outside can never understand how they can find redemption or hope or, yes, even good in their circumstances. But somehow, they do. I do know that my wife and I have been trying to have a child for four years now, a trial that most people just want to get over with. But I cannot tell you how fruitful, how enriching how good this trial has been for our marriage and our spirits.

Good often disguises itself as pain, or disappointment or loss. And we just try to fast-forward through all those parts so we can get to what we think will be the “good” parts – the easy parts, the planned-out parts, however we define “good.”

Maybe on Good Friday, we can learn to see “good” in all its disguises.

Have a happy Easter, friends.

My wife and I got up to look at the eclipse Monday night.blood-moon2-470435

Neither of us had seen a lunar eclipse before. They are scheduled so darn inconveniently. If they had them during the daytime, that would be much better for me.

The only other eclipse I remember was a solar eclipse when I was in fifth grade. All the kids and teachers stood out on the playground, holding notecards with pinholes as the cloudless sky turned an eerie twilight.

Of course, you know that there are already people, apparently thousands of them, who are making a big deal about the prophetic significance of the lunar eclipses.

Of course, any scientist will tell you that the lunar eclipses are a perfectly natural, (read: not “supernatural”) phenomenon.

But when we let ourselves easily believe in so-called prophecy, we are not just exercising our faith in something that may be very unlikely. We may actually be missing what God is actually trying to communicate to us.

Here’s what I mean.

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We humans like novelty.

We like new.

My wife and I are already thinking about the new place we will visit this year on vacation. We love trying new foods or reading new books or going new places.

We are meant to like new to some extent. God made the seasons to change, and every year, the seasons feel fresh.  And by the time the season is over, we are pretty much ready for it to depart.

But we are also made to like stability. The same seasons come around every year. Along with the same holidays. We may wander all around, but there is “no place like home,” right? If you’ve ever read The Screwtape Letters, you know that Lewis calls this “rhythm.”

But sometimes, our taste for the new and novel overrides everything else. That’s when we start consuming excessively. That’s when we have to buy the next new thing right away because we just can’t stand what we already have. That’s a taste for the new that is warped so that “new” becomes an idol.

But look at this.

I was thinking about this verse lately because Easter is coming up next week. It comes from Revelation, but I think it’s still relevant, because I believe Easter is more than a repurposed Spring fertility festival. I do believe Easter is more than chocolate bunnies.

I believe that God is a big fan of new. And the proof walked out on Easter morning.

behold

Yes, God is a big fan of new. So much so, that He wants to make us into something new…

The question is, in our love of the novel and the new, will we allow ourselves to be made new?

Wow, what a week. The kids at school are already acting like school is almost out (even though we have six more weeks.)  But at least we have a long Easter weekend coming up.

This was a particularly rich week for me, I think with lots to feed my mind on.  Here’s a few things I came across.

On My Bookshelf51zm3Fd25nL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_

On my bookshelf this week has been a little treasure called Found by Micha Boyett.  I’ve been a longtime fan of Micha’s blogging, and it is absolutely wonderful to finally have her mind in book form!  Found is a spiritual memoir, written like a prayer journal, which is an altogether more intimate way to read a memoir. I’ve never been great at praying at regular intervals…or keeping a journal…or really doing anything that Micha does, and this book has been a breath of fresh air.

In My Theater

Wes Anderson and I have a love-hate relationship. I have hated more of his movies that I have loved lately. Maybe that makes me an ignorant boob. My first exposure to The Grand Budapest Hotel, I did not even know it was an Anderson film, which is probably for the best because I had no preconceived prejudices. It was an absolutely delightful, frenetic, slapstick, emotional, beautiful, memorable movie. Go see it.

In My Blog Reader

There was a lot of great stuff in my blog reader this week, but a few entries stood out. I don’t know why (because I am not a “Mom Blogger”, or a mom, or a parent at all for that matter) but I Worry for the Mom Bloggers by Jamie the VWM really hit me, maybe because really all things are fleeting aren’t they?

Two blog posts on more of the negative side got to me, God has Let Me Down by Joy Bennett, because really, if you’ve known God long enough, you’ve probably been disappointed once or twice, but that’s okay. And Grumbling and Complaining by Lore Ferguson, because I sincerely do believe (even if it isn’t in the Bible) that a positive attitude changes everything.

This post was a departure from Micah Murray’s typical stuff, but I really laughed at Ten Things Real People Do, if for no other reason than it proves that I am real…very real.  

And finally, this post from Zack Hunt, following up on the World Vision fiasco: 10,000 Chances at Redemption.

Those are a few things that fueled me this week.  What about you?